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Crossbows over Characters?


A couple years ago I attended Houston's annual gaming convention, NanCon. There, I partook of one of the best Call of Cthulhu sessions ever (Thanks Guppy, Darren, Doyle and the Skull of Balor!). After much pleading and wheedling I was granted the honor of being a game-thing (GM's pet monster) in the same scenario run for a different group. The group I had played with was filled with masterful role-players who took to the semi-live action that the GMs presented with such ferocity I was astounded that I even came out with a 3rd place "award" in the whole shebang.

The group I game-thinged in, however was almost completely the opposite. Not only were they content to simply sit around, despite the numerous props provided, I also noticed that while the players were interested in running into hellish fiends, they simply wanted to hack and hew, and not role-play the fear that any person in their right mind would portray (especially in CoC!). It is quite possible, however, that they felt any characters on their particular quest wouldn't be in their right minds anyways...=20

When the session finally ended I expressed my dismay to the GM about the lack of fun that this group seemed to have in comparison to the one I was with. He commented "D&D gamers." and left it at that. I nodded and wandered on to dot people's foreheads with a blue marker (Hi Mike!) before the weight of that statement actually hit me. D&D gamers. That implies that different systems will actually bring out different mentalities. I began to catalogue my gaming experiences prior to the convention.

Certainly there were different attitudes needed in different games, but that really wasn't system based, was it? I'm sure I've had AD&D games that were as political as Vampire, and Vampire games that were as hack & slash as AD&D. I thought over that last statement a few more times and realized that the basic AD&D mentality may actually be towards hack & slash. I read a few of my game books cover to cover to try to determine where these mentalities derived.

All the RPG base books I've read describe how important role-playing is, yet each book offers a different basis to give players their tangible rewards, via experience points. Most games offer some rewards for role-playing, but offer larger rewards for accomplishing some task, be it killing monsters, gaining treasure, or rising politically, thus allowing the players to be a little lazy and not role-play, which is odd considering Role-Playing is the name of the game (otherwise they'd be called "Boardless Games", ala Jeff Freeman's [Adventure]). Also, most game-books provide more, detailed information on what the characters will primarily be doing to earn those treasured experience points rather than ways on portraying characters.

Conventions are probably the best place to get an example of a stereotypical game for each system. For instance, the biggest rant of one of my friends is how in a convention game of AD&D the group finished the mission the best way possible and was the only group that did finish the mission, but came in last because they killed the least amount of monsters. Does that mean that AD&D is therefore nothing more than a combat system game? Certainly not, but most of the AD&D gamers are of that mentality.

The largest problem does arise in the distribution of experience points. Everyone wants their character to advance and the only way to do that is through experience points. If a game book does not give rules on granting experience points through role-play, does this mean the players should only get "in character" when it's easy to? What if an adventure leads to no treasure and no monsters to bash? Does this mean that for the character it's a wasted night? A easy solution would be to throw out the experience point rules and develop new rules based soley off of role-playing and character accomplishments. This would allow not only for more benifits in role-play, a GM could easily then use whatever type of adventure he desired without the problem of not handing out rewards to the players.

It is, of course, ultimately up to the individual groups to decide their styles of play. If the players choose to wipe out the orcish warren in search of treasure rather than finding out why said orcs were moving north at such a rapid pace then more power to them! I don't feel it neccessary, however, for the game-books themselves to dictate which is the proper or more fun course of action.

Happy Gaming!
Shadow Sprite

Side note - I love AD&D because it can provide some of the best examples of all the good and bad in gaming. A special thanks to those founding members of TSR who dared to ask "Wouldn't it be more fun if we gave each miniature a personality?" I might not be here today (that is, writing for RPGnet and playing RPGs) without you people!

Feedback encouraged to sprite@rpg.net!

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